Sunday, February 2, 2020

My author website

I have an author website! My amazing son, Kevin VanderMeer, built it for me, and I'm excited about the update!

Click here to check it out!

Thank you, blog friends, for years of fun, sharing, learning together, and supporting one another. The new website has a blog, too, and I'm hoping you'll follow me to my new Internet address!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

SCBWI Western Washington's November meeting + an afternoon write-in/sketch-in

I had a productive and fun day yesterday, writing and learning craft alongside some of my SCBWI Western Washington friends.

Our monthly meeting was led by Amanda Hosch, and she gave an excellent presentation, "Crafting the Middle Grade/Young Adult Novel: Engaging Readers so They Turn the Page."

She shared the insightful way she breaks down story, questions we can ask ourselves about plot, and other helpful things to think about throughout the process of writing a novel. If you have the chance to hear Amanda speak on craft, do it! Now I must read her MG novel, MABEL OPAL PEAR AND THE RULES FOR SPYING.

written by Amanda Hosch, illustrated by Ira Sluyterman Van Langeweyde
Capstone Young Readers
pub date: September 30, 2017

After a lunch break, we were able to explore our own stories or art in a write-in/sketch-in.

Donna Barba Higuera, Ellie Peterson, Faith Pray, and Dan Richards each spoke for ten or fifteen minutes before 45-minute writing or sketching sprints. Each one did a beautiful job, inspiring us and sharing craft tips, and I appreciated being able to dig into my own work immediately after each mini presentation.

I loved being able to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. My sweet friend Faith Pray and I took a pic together.

Here's a photo of Simon modeling my copy of ONCE UPON A TIMELY, which Faith signed at yesterday's meeting.

written by Lynn Parrish Sutton, illustrated by Faith Pray
Kane Miller EDC Publishing

By the way, Faith's gorgeous book, THE STARKEEPER, will be out in 2020! Check out the amazing cover! 

written and illustrated by Faith Pray
Random House Books for Young Readers
Pub date: June 9, 2020

Thank you, SCBWI Western Washington, for an inspiring and educational day!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Simon says, "Follow me on Instagram" :)

Here are a few of the excellent books my writing assistant, Simon, has reviewed and recommended on Instagram:

written by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Balzer + Bray
pub date: February 2, 2016

by Rachel Hawkins
G. P. Putnam's Sons
pub date: May 7, 2019

by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Scholastic Press
pub date: March 3, 2020

An incredible coincidence: so far, I have agreed 100% with every recommendation! Hehehe!

I would like to remind everyone that Simon came with his name. I'm not a narcissist, naming pets after myself. In fact, his name made it seem like we were meant to have him in our family! At least, that's what I kept telling myself when it took wa-a-ay too long to housebreak him. I guess his mind was on other things. Books? Squirrels? She-poodles?

This is a photo of Simon three days before Halloween. He was telling dog ghost stories at the time.

If you'd like to follow him, his Instagram handle is simon_the_whippet.

Are you on Instagram? Feel free to post your handle in the comments!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

What's it like to be an agent?

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be an agent? Andrea Custer, an agency sibling who is also repped by the incredible Jennie Kendrick, has been posting about writing careers on her informative Tips for Teen Authors blog. For her literary agent post, she interviewed our agent, Jennie!

Here is the interview!

Jennie is everything I wished for in an agent and more! I adore her. 💛

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Caterpillars and Butterflies!

It's butterfly hatchin' season, the most wonderful time to read about caterpillars and butterflies! I want to flag two beautiful picture books that make excellent read-alouds this time of year.

Both have bright, bold illustrations and low word counts, and both are perfect for preschoolers and young elementary school students.

Candlewick Press 
Pub date: March 13, 2007

This book is gorgeous! It's about a girl named Lucy who, while searching for the butterfly she spotted in the garden one day before, discovers other tiny creatures to admire. Holes in some of the pages allow the images that are a page away to show through, peekaboo-style, and they become parts of other illustrations. There's a giant pop-up surprise, and it's delightful. I also love the shimmery cover!

written by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Beach Lane Books
pub date: August 30, 2011

Ten Little Caterpillars is a rhyming, counting book. Like Butterfly Butterfly, it is gorgeous! Every page is packed with interesting images, and many objects in the illustrations are labeled in tiny print. One of my favorite parts of this book: the last few pages show various types of caterpillars followed by illustrations of the butterflies or moths each will transform into. It also tells what each one eats. I would have loved that as a kid. Dang, I love it now!

Both books are fun, springtime treats!

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Extra notes/thoughts: 

Bill Martin Jr and Lois Ehlert (along with John Archambault) also created Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

While I knew that when I picked up Ten Little Caterpillars (it says so on the cover), the book it most reminded me of was Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert.

I usually link to websites for authors and illustrators, but I came across really interesting bios for Bill Martin Jr. and Lois Ehlert (links above). Check them out, if you have time!

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I hope you're all having a happy spring!!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas

Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
pub date: February 5, 2019

Flap copy:
Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip-hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri's got massive shoes to fill. But it's hard to get your come up when you're labeled a hoodlum at school and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral . . . for all the wrong reasons.

Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn't just want to make it--she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip-hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you, and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn't always free.

* * *

Bri is an aspiring rapper. Her father was also a rapper, a rapper who died way too young. She lives in a tough world--our world--and poverty and racism are forces that confront her every day. Drugs and gun violence have already taken their toll on her family, and the risk of them doing more harm is always there. Yet Bri still dreams and works toward her dream--in an imperfect, human way. This is extra hard when people make unfair assumptions about her because of the color of her skin and where she's from. 

Thomas is an incredibly skilled writer with an amazing voice, and her characters are outstanding. She writes powerfully about racism, modern culture, family, friendships, hardships, and--ultimately--hope. That last bit, hope, is important to me as a reader and a writer, especially in books for children and teens.

I recommend this thought-provoking, moving book.

Have you read On the Come Up?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

GHOST by Jason Reynolds

Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
pub date: August 30, 2016

Finalist, National Book Awards 2016 for Young People's Literature

Flap copy:
Running. That's all that Ghost (real name Castle Crenshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race--and wins--the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he tries to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up with him?

* * *
Ghost's dad is in jail for a terrible something (no spoilers here!) that happened three years ago. Ghost was in fourth grade at the time, and it still haunts him. His mother works long hours so she can improve their lives, but this leaves Ghost bored and with time on his hands. When he comes across a track team practicing at the park, an opportunity for something entirely new to Ghost arises--but it comes with a whole new set of challenges.

There is so much to appreciate in Ghost, the first book in Jason Reynolds's Track Series. The layers of scars Ghost has from the night his father was arrested, the details of living with less money--it all feels real. Ghost is an endearing, wonderfully-flawed character. I love the voice and the relationships in this book, and I especially love the hope in it.

Your turn! Have you read any of Jason Reynolds's Track Series? What are you reading now?